Poverty in America affects many of our schools. Students with a better understanding of how poverty affects people can have increased empathy towards those who may be suffering in one or more areas. I felt with the refugee situation and the fact children have perhaps been exposed to the fact people live in poverty a class discussion could be held. The free printable is in the free eMember area of this website (select the free radio button to make the payment options disappear). Only your name and email are required to join this area, and your information will never be shared with anyone, because we hate spam, too.

I made this printable hoping that it will help students understand those who may be living in poverty to increase their empathy and kindness at school. 

My discussion is more for a general understanding of financial insecurity, housing insecurity, food insecurity, and clothing insecurity. The discussion posters are like this one, which discusses food insecurity. The teacher reads the letter-sized teaching poster and invites the children to comment.


The following poster mentions several of the problems related to living in poverty.


Think elementary children are too young to discuss these topics? The Minnesota State Standards 2011 include economic standards, such as economic reasoning for kindergarten They were selected as there are no national social studies standards on the CCSS website for elementary grades to date.

Distinguish between individual needs (conditions necessary to survive) and individual wants (conditions desired to be happy).
For example: Needs—to be fed, to be free from thirst, to be sheltered. Wants—to be entertained, to be famous, to be strong, to be helpful to others.


And economic reasons for kindergarten o.

Identify goods and services that could satisfy a specific need or want. For example: The need to be free from thirst could be satisfied by water, milk or orange juice. The desire (want) to be entertained could be satisfied by a toy, an amusement park ride or watching a movie.


Several of the letter-sized teaching posters focus on how children can help without spending money. One thing they can do is be aware if they invite someone without money to a social activity, it is best to pick one that is less expensive or free. Pool or beach? Movie in a theater or at home? What would the economically deprived friend most be able to do? Amusement park or playground? By not putting a friend in an embarrassing situation and simply thinking ahead, it can help the friend be able to participate in activities.


Does it cost less to go to a restaurant for a meal, or have a picnic? Could both activities be fun? Actually, these posts would have a side benefit of helping children realize their own families might sometimes pick less expensive activities, too. does a restaurant or picnic cost less

Another thing students can do is be kind. Some of the posters have situations the class can discuss to help them be aware of the appropriate behavior. Counselors might like to use some of these posters, as well.

which is kinder whispering in front of people or being welcoming to someone

If the school or group situation allows it, would it be better to share food or throw it away in front of someone hungry? I realize many times food cannot be shared at school due to allergies and religious beliefs.

which is kinder throwing food away or sharing

There is a wants-and-needs activity and sorting cards, as well as a cut-and-paste worksheet included in the printable.


Students may sort pictures in pocket charts or at a learning center.


You might also like our free holiday version of the wants and needs part of this lesson.


You may like our free decision making social studies pack which helps students learn how to make decisions, a skill we all need. This lesson is found in our free eMember area.

A full lesson about decision making is in our premium Amembers area. 


Thank you for reading, Carolyn

See also Mass Poor People’s Assembly & National Moral March informational blog post.

Mass Poor People’s Assembly & National Moral March on Washington, DC: A Digital Gathering


Wants and needs can be so difficult for families to manage during the holidays. The anticipation of gifts can create some behavior issues in the classroom, too. The post at this link has a free holiday wants and needs printable to help with economics understanding for young children and primary grades.

Understanding Poverty Class Discussion Guide Freebie

Poverty in America affects many of our schools. Students with a better understanding of how poverty affects people can have increased empathy towards those who may be suffering in one or more areas. Class illustrated discussion guide free instant download at this link.


This sustainable gift guide will help you give with the environment in mind this holiday season. Informational blog post by Shannon Sullivan.